UFC 261 featured two Women’s Championship bouts as Valentina Shevchenko and Rose Namajunas emerged victorious against Jéssica Andrade and Zhang Weili respectively.
Shevchenko retained the Women’s Flyweight belt for the fifth successive time, while Namajunas inflicted just a second loss on Zhang to win the Strawweight Championship.
With several fighters now vying for the opportunity to challenge Shevchenko and Namajunas, here are the top contenders to face each of these champions:
Rose Namajunas (Women’s Strawweight Championship)
Carla Ezparza or Yan Xiaonan: On May 22nd, Yan Xiaonan faces Carla Esparza at UFC Fight Night 188 as third meets fourth in the strawweight rankings.
Xiaonan is yet to lose in the UFC and is unbeaten in mixed martial arts for over a decade, while Esparza actually defeated Namajunas back in 2014.
The winner is likely to be the one who gets the first chance to take on Namajunas for the title, with Zhang likely to have to fight at least once more before any chance of a rematch.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk: The Polish fighter has already established herself as one of the division’s most feared competitors and narrowly missed out on winning the belt last year, after losing an epic bout to Zhang via split decision.
Having beaten Ezparza in the past, there is a case to be made that Jedrzejczyk is more than deserving of another shot at the belt without winning a non-title fight first.
Jedrzejczyk has already lost to Namajunas twice which could count against her, but a trilogy fight could still make worthy viewing, with the 33-year-old keen to avenge her previous demons.
What’s more, Jedrzejczyk is still second in the strawweight rankings so has every right to demand another opportunity.
Valentina Shevchenko (Women’s Flyweight Champion)
Joanne Calderwood or Lauren Murphy: Given Shevchenko’s dominance in recent times, it doesn’t seem to matter who gets throws at her next. Nonetheless, the winner of Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263 could find themselves getting the next shot at the champion.
Calderwood was supposed to fight Shevchenko back in 2020, but the contest ended up falling through. Equally, Murphy defeated Liliya Shakirova in her last bout and is currently third in the flyweight rankings.
Both are deserving of a chance, but whether either of them can put up a challenge is a whole different story.
Katlyn Chookagian: The American lost to Shevchenko last year in a title fight but followed this up by beating her sister Antonina three months later.
Chookagian also defeated Cynthia Calvillo in her last bout and is ranked second in the flyweight rankings.
The 32-year-old faces Vivane Araujo at UFC 262 and another win could set up a rematch.News Now - Sport News